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Cheating, Schmeating?

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As a die-hard romantic, I'm always thrilled when couples that have broken up get back together again. Especially if they parted ways because of something so inevitable as one of them sleeping with another person.

And so, naturally, I beamed when I saw that those gorgeous, young, Twilight lovers -- Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart -- are reportedly back together again.

As basically everyone with a functioning internet connection already knows, Stewart admitted to having had a fling with her married Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders. Almost instantly, she was labeled a "bad girl" and the paparazzi, bloggers and Twihards (as fans of the vampire book franchise are called) pinned a figurative Scarlett A to her chest. And most devastating of all (at least to Stewart) -- longtime boyfriend Pattinson moved out of her home and seemingly out of her life as a result of this one indiscretion.

Pattinson's reaction to the affair is completely understandable. Not only did he have to deal with usual feelings of hurt and betrayal that accompany an infidelity, his private pain was also dragged through the virtual public square.

Yet, after a relatively short breakup, Pattinson seems to have taken Stewart back. He knows better than almost anyone that in the entertainment industry, temptation is everywhere. It doesn't just lurk -- it struts.

To some, this reunion may be shocking. After all, we've been taught -- through books, movies, television shows, pop songs, and even church sermons -- that sexual infidelity is the worst form of betrayal. And when discovered, it always results in the end of the relationship.

But should it? Is cheating on a spouse the worst thing you can do? And must it always be a deal breaker? I don't think it needs to be.

When I was an actress Stewart's age, I was involved with a similarly ridiculously handsome actor who shall remain nameless. Though he had just gotten out of a marriage, he was not the only one with baggage. I also had issues with intimacy and commitment. Perhaps because we were so in love, the issue of monogamy was never discussed. It might've never occurred to me to expect him to be faithful, but I also didn't expect a famous blonde, baby doll actress he was working with to make a move on him the night I left town after visiting him on location.

To his credit, he called me the next day and rather guiltily told me everything that had transpired. They had had dinner together and then sex in the same bed that I had just vacated. He also added some color by letting me know that she was pretty wild in the sack. But he went on to assure me that he wasn't interested in her and that there would be no "repeat performance." The entire revelation made me feel like someone (him) had punched me in the gut, but what really sent me over the edge was the insinuation that the sex was really good. (Pro tip: if you're ever revealing an affair to your partner, don't ever tell him/her how good the sex was. They may say they want to know, but they don't.)

But I didn't show my distress. Getting in touch with my anger was very difficult for me at the time. I simply cried a lot and obsessed constantly about them having sex, imagining every tawdry detail.

At least I was somewhat comforted by his constant phone calls and promises that he wanted nothing more to do with her. If I had thought for a minute that he would leave me for her, I would've been utterly devastated.

A few days after the disclosure, when I went to pick him up from the airport, something very unusual happened. Rather than feel hurt and angry at seeing him, I was filled with a crazy sense of competition. I wanted him more than ever. I also wanted him to realize how good he had it "at home." We couldn't get to the bedroom fast enough. Nearly thirty years later, I still remember that mind-blowing sex session.

Of course, the matter was not resolved with a single coital act. Like any good Jew and creative type, I was already in therapy. My shrink and I spent countless sessions poring over my boyfriend's affair. Rather than tell me to dump the scoundrel, which was something I didn't want to do, she helped me come up with some guidelines in the event of future infidelities, which were inevitable given our vocation (acting) and his recent personal experience.

I was sensitive to the fact that he had been in a marriage for many years and missed out on certain freedom (like having sex with others). And I was young and not ready for a monogamous relationship myself, so there was an unspoken understanding that we could both sleep with other people while away. That infidelities would take place was practically assured -- affairs were ubiquitous on location in those days.

But that didn't mean that knowledge of these affairs didn't sting. On my therapist's advice, I asked my boyfriend not reveal any new affairs to me and to deal with his guilt by himself. My philosophy at the time was that what I didn't know wouldn't hurt me.

As for my boyfriend, I think he appreciated the fact that I didn't punish him for his dalliance as his ex-wife had. And I eventually came to realize that although I was initially terribly hurt, it didn't kill me and it didn't destroy our relationship. What he had was not an affair of the heart. (Eventually, we got engaged and then I broke it off. I think I was too young and dysfunctional and he was too untherapized for it to work out. We broke each other's hearts and I married my first husband -- a fellow actor -- less than a year later on a total rebound. That marriage only lasted 3 years.)

Once you get past the shock and the hurt (which most of us experience when our partner steps out on us), there can be a kind of exhilaration in "reclaiming" your mate and helping them realize that the connection you have together can't be beat. Post-affair, a relationship can simultaneously assume a rawness and a fragility that can actually be very invigorating for those couples who have fallen asleep at the wheel.

There can also be a renewed appreciation for your partner who might have felt taken for granted. And if you are the philanderer, you may be grateful that you are getting another chance, which might inspire you to redouble your efforts at pleasing your spouse.

If your relationship is strong, hot sex with someone else is not necessarily going to destroy it. But gentlemen, beware! While you may have an affair because you are looking for more and/or better sex, we women usually stray because we are seeking an emotional connection that we are not getting from you. According to Medical Daily, women are much more likely to fall in love with extra-marital lovers than male adulterers. Fifty-seven percent of women reported being in love with their current amour while only 27 percent of men reported falling for their illicit partners. The good news, however, is that 80 percent of both men and women who are cheating wish to stay married.

Though using celebrity couples as our relationship guides is generally inadvisable, there are many, many examples of those who have successfully weathered the storm of infidelity -- from Bill and Hilary Clinton (at least your affair wasn't put on trial in front of Congress!) to Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford to David Letterman.

Infidelity does not have to end a marriage. It is one reason among many that could end the relationship. But the others -- fiscal irresponsibility, a quick temper -- aren't portrayed as automatic deal breakers the way an affair is.

People cheat for a variety of reasons, all of which should be explored in therapy. But if we could learn to accept our partners' flaws (which may include the need to feel attractive and reclaim a lost youth) as we do our friends' foibles, we might all cut each other a bit more slack and have more tolerance for each other's basic humanity.

Even Pattinson is wise enough to have allowed for Stewart's need to play out her attraction. Maybe they'll have a happy ending after all!

And sometimes the makeup sex makes the all of the drama worth it.